Letting go

A guide to giving up when things no longer serve you


When I was 13 years old, I made the bright decision to join the middle school basketball team. I imagined how exciting it would be to make game-winning baskets and soon enough, I fantasized I would be the captain of the high school team. Clearly, this was not the future in store for me; I made not one basket throughout the duration of the entire season and played for approximately five minutes per game. I was shocked to uncover my lack of basketball talent. Despite the fact that my basketball career was crashing down right in front of my eyes, I did not quit until after the season had come to a close. 

   As a society, we emphasize the importance of commitment. But at what point do we draw the line at commitments that are physically and emotionally draining? My experience on the middle school basketball team was perhaps not the most telling example of a demanding commitment, but it goes to show the way in which there is a time and a place to stop something that doesn’t spark joy. 

   There is a subtle art of giving up, and it’s one I’m passionate about. When you make a commitment to being a part of something, it is essential to stick it through. However, if a commitment becomes unbearable, it is completely reasonable to find ways to minimize your role until you can relinquish your position entirely. 

  1. Communicate tasks to delegate: When a position becomes something I no longer look forward to, I try my best to analyze the situation to figure out where the problem stems from. Sometimes the issue comes from the fact that there is a lot on my plate and in order to avoid the urge to halt my participation entirely, it is important to communicate my circumstances with others and figure out what roles might be more appropriate at that time. 
  2. Create intentional boundaries: When a commitment is no longer fulfilling, I consider when and where I work on it and try to switch things up. If it happens to be something I characteristically complete after school, I may try to complete it in the evening. However if the timing is unavoidable, I consider how the activity itself can morph to better fit my needs. When faced with this situation recently, I vowed to not answer my emails after 6:00 p.m. and to dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to doing an activity for the exclusive purpose of entertainment. 
  3. Find the positives: Yes, I know, this is easier said than done. But try to find at least one thing about the commitment that “sparks joy.” After all, you made a commitment to it at some point, ask yourself why. Reignite the passion you once had for the commitment, even if it is not as strong or long lasting. Looking at things through a new perspective often changes the role entirely.

   It is okay to let go. It is okay to give up. But ensure that your decision to do so is mature and rational.